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June 29. 2012

Toledo passes partner benefits for city workers

Toledo--Two weeks after Mayor Mike Bell vetoed a domestic partner benefit ordinance that would reopen contract negotiations with city firefighters, council passed another version on June 19 that left out that amendment, garnering the mayorís renewed support.

Bellís June 6 veto came with protests from both his office and the city law director that city council does not have the authority to mandate that the city reopen contract negotiations.

The mayor promptly reintroduced his original legislation, which director of human resources Ellen Grachek estimated would cost at most $410,000 a year, but likely would be far less. The city currently spends around $11,000 per employee for health insurance, for a total of $28,985,000--at their maximum, domestic partner benefits would add 1.4 percent to the cityís benefits budget. However, many city employees in same-sex relationships could already be covered under their partnersí insurance policies, as such benefits are increasingly being used as tools to recruit and retain qualified employees.

That is also one of the driving reasons behind Bell introducing the benefits. A growing list of Ohio governments offer them, including Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland Heights, as well as Cuyahoga, Franklin and Lucas counties. Toledo is the seat of Lucas County.

All three Republican members of council, along with independent D. Michael Collins, voted against the benefits.

The council also passed a resolution on June 19 encouraging the mayor to reopen negotiations for the firefightersí contract, since their benefits are paid from the unionís health care fund.

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